Kent parental responsibility may increase

Bryan Wroten

The Health and Safety Committee authorized a draft ordinance last night that would hold parents responsible for any crimes committed by their children.

Law Director Jim Silver prepared a draft ordinance at the City Council’s request that imposes punishment on parents should their child break the law. He said he looked at ordinances from several cities around the state as models for a potential ordinance.

The draft states that parents of a child younger than 18 years can be fined and/or made to do community service if their child violates the law. The child must be convicted of three offenses within any two year period for the parents to be charged.

Ward 6 councilwoman Beth Oswitch asked why the city would allow children three “strikes.”

“Were you ever a kid?” Silver replied.

A first offense for the parent under the ordinance carries a $250 fine and/or community service. Conviction of a second offense increases the fine to $500 and/or community service.

Silver said any child who breaks the law would still be punished accordingly. This ordinance would only change what happens to the parents. The ordinance would not apply to foster parents and public children services agencies.

According to the draft, parents would be responsible for, but not limited to:

• Keeping illegal drugs out of the home and possession of their child

• Keeping firearms out of possession of the child without knowledge and supervision

• stopping the child from causing damage to real or personal property

• prevention of theft of property

• prevention of violence and assaultive behavior

Status crimes, such as truancy or breaking curfew, would not apply to this ordinance.

Ward 4 Councilman John Kuhar questioned the wording of the section about firearms. Silver said he could change the wording so it would be clearer that constitutional rights would not be violated.

The Finance Committee voted to approve the Five Year Capital Improvement Plan, which schedules projects and financing for the next five years. The purpose of the plan is to allocate funding to areas according to their need within available funds.

Any committee approvals will later be brought up in City Council for a final vote.

Contact public affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].